“All my professional life, I have felt that translators are in the business of spinning an illusion – the illusion is that the reader is reading not a translation but the real thing.” Anthea Bell
Among the great names of distinguished authors and linguists, the world has lost yet another great one.
On the past month of October, world renowned translator Anthea Bell, famous for translating from the complex works of Franz Kafka and Sigmund Freud to the humorous tales of the fictional Gaulish hero Asterix, finally succumbed to times passing, at age 82.
Anthea’s work was unanimously remarkable and considered to be the sort of translations that even improve the quality and reach of the original material.
She thought of herself, of her craft, as that of a conjurer, responsible for channeling the true ideas behind the original material of her work. “An illusion,” as she put it in her own words, to make readers feel and believe they were reading the “real thing.”
Or as Borges once observed, writing a poem (or translating one for that matter) is like casting a magic spell. And the instrument of that magic, language, is vastly mysterious. We know nothing of its origin. We only know that it branches into other languages and that each of them consists of an undefined and ever-changing vocabulary. An indefinite number of syntactic possibilities.
This was the same delicate craft Anthea professed, and she practiced it with the same love and dedication.
It’s not a coincidence that her first translation ever was actually a children’s book, originally written in German.
“It was my first translation and I did it with my first baby in a carrycot at my side.”
Today, her everlasting work is a testimony of that same love for the craft, which will transcend her mortal lifespan beyond her years.
A legacy for all linguists to treasure and be inspired by.
This makes Anthea a silent or anonymous hero in a way. For the point of conjuring a successful illusion is to trick the spectator (or the reader in this case) into believing that what he is beholding (or reading) is completely “real.”
At Trusted Translations, we would like to uphold her legacy and raise a glass to Anthea as a timeless champion of her craft and our own.